On Thursday, April 27th, the House Natural Resources Committee passed House Bill 4122 out of Committee at a formal meeting at Chairman Larson's desk on the House floor. The introduced version of this bill allowed a landowner with 1,000 acres or more and within the jurisdiction of two or more groundwater conservation districts to petition the districts to transfer into one district if the districts agree to the transfer.
After the hearing, in which many landowners testified against the bill, a committee substitute was drafted which significantly altered these provisions-- reducing the acreage requirement from 1,000 acres to 100 acres, adding a requirement that 20% of the landowner's property must be located in the receiving district's boundaries, and removing the district's ability to refuse to accept the new territory. This new language was met with significant disagreement, and consequently, at the April 19th Natural Resources Committee hearing, the bill was not brought up for a vote.
As a result, a second committee substitute was drafted that is a significant improvement over the first committee substitute. This newer version, which was passed out of committee on Thursday, April 27th, increases the acreage requirement to 1,000 acres and requires that both districts agree to the transfer. The 20% acreage requirement was removed. Most notably, it adds a requirement that the landowner may only move into the groundwater district with jurisdiction over the portion of the landowner's property that has the highest appraised value. This additional language was meant to address the concerns of groundwater districts with authority to collect property taxes over a large section of taxable land being removed from their jurisdiction.
In terms of Needmore Ranch, the justification for this language does not apply. Neither BSEACD or HTGCD collect property taxes. Consequently, Needmore Ranch would have to get both sections of the ranch appraised (the half in HTGCD and the half in BSEACD) and which ever section appraises higher, would be the district in which the ranch would be required to transfer. Approximately 45% of Needmore Ranch is located in HTGCD and approximately 55% is located in BSEACD. It is likely that the BSEACD section would appraise at a higher value, meaning that Needmore Ranch would be required to remain within BSEACD, but this is still unclear, and the structure is open to manipulation.
Fortunately, the final committee substitute passed out of the Committee includes the provision allowing the districts to refuse to grant the petition. However, TESPA is still opposed to this bill as it is could be subject to manipulation, to amendment at a future point during session, is unnecessary as Chapter 36 of the Water Code already has a process for groundwater districts to consolidate territory, and it unravels the accomplishments of House Bill 3405 during the 84th legislative session.
The bill now moves to the Calendars Committee, which will decide, likely this week, whether to place it on the House Calendar. Please call the House Calendar Committee members listed below and ask them to keep the bill in Committee and to NOT place it on the House Calendar.
Some talking points...
You are opposed to this bill and urge the Committee Members to NOT place it on the House Calendar because it:
--It creates a burdensome process that is unnecessary as Chapter 36 of the Water Code already has a process for groundwater districts to consolidate territory.
--It unravels the accomplishments of House Bill 3405 during the 84th legislative session which extended the jurisdiction of BSEACD.
--It caters to a special interest. Despite what Representative Kacal maintains, there is not a significant statewide crisis caused by multiple groundwater districts with regulatory authority over one larger tract of land.
Calendars Committee Members
Rep. Hunter, Todd:
Rep. Howard, Donna:
Rep. Alonzo, Roberto R.:
Rep. Cook, Byron:
Rep. Davis, Sarah:
Rep. Geren, Charlie:
Rep. Giddings, Helen:
Rep. King, Ken:
Rep. Koop, Linda:
Rep. Paddie, Chris:
Rep. Rose, Toni:
Rep Trent Ashby: (member of NR Committee)
Rep. Kyle Kacal: (author of bill)
Rep. Poncho Nevarez: (member of NR Committee)
Rep. Dade Phelan: (member of NR Committee)